Letter to the Editor: Questions to Portsmouth City Council

By Caleb J. Miller

I am writing this letter in response to the Portsmouth City Council’s 4-2 decision to fire City Manager Derek Allen as reported by Chris Slone in the Daily Times online edition (12-19-17). While I’m sure Mr. Allen has his flaws as anyone does, I have been impressed with his work on behalf of the city and have appreciated his efforts in light of our very serious problems. On balance, Mr. Allen’s work in Portsmouth has helped to stabilize our city and set the stage for future progress. So it was with shock and disappointment that I met the news of his firing on what are clearly trumped up charges. To the four members of council who voted in favor of his dismissal and to the Portsmouth community in general, I wish to ask the following:

• Was progressive disciplinary action taken first? Was Mr. Allen warned that his behavior was unacceptable and provided an opportunity to correct course? Is there documentation to demonstrate Mr. Allen was counseled about his unacceptable behavior?

• What is the plan to get a new city manager? Is there a large pool of city managers that can be expected to apply for the vacant position?

• Is it likely that a potential candidate would be willing to come to work for Portsmouth given council’s arbitrary decision to fire Mr. Allen without due process in light of the problems facing the city for what I am guessing are pretty modest wages?

• A stable government is necessary for economic growth, attracting both potential employers and new residents. What signal does this send to the outside world about our city? Are potential employers and new residents more or less likely to locate here given this sudden and unexpected decision? Does Portsmouth appear to be more volatile or less?

• Finally, and most important, does council realize the potential legal liability the city now faces in Mr. Allen’s firing? I would submit the city is now exposed to the risk of legal action from Mr. Allen for wrongful termination. Just what Portsmouth needed! An ugly and expensive lawsuit at the taxpayer’s expense.

I wish to express my gratitude to councilmen, Kevin E. Johnson and Kevin W. Johnson, for their wisdom on this matter by voting no. For the four other members of council who do not share the same level-headed approach to city governance, I can only conclude that such swift action to fire Mr. Allen was something of a personal vendetta. Unfortunately, that decision was not in the interests of city taxpayers and I believe will be detrimental to the city in the months and years to come. Members of council who behave in such a manner should be cautious, understanding that in a city where the recall vote has been used before, it can be used again.


By Caleb J. Miller